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Are We Living in What may Become Known as the iPhone Period?

by Martin Willis (06/08/12).

Apple meets Mid-Century Modern. Are We Living in What may Become Known as the iPhone Period?

When interviewing Leigh Keno for my Antique Auction Forum podcast the other day, he made a remark that the younger antiques and collectibles crowd is influenced by the simple functionality of the iPhone and similar Apple products. This got me to thinking about if Apple decided to come out with a furniture line, would we (in the antique world) have to eventually adapt to handling iChairs, iSofas, iLoungers and iDining sets, etc.? Aye, yi, yi!

I too like simplicity and functionality, but when I think on those lines, my mind drifts immediately to Shaker furniture. It is most likely because I am self-brainwashed into loving just antiques. When I really open my eyes and mind, I can see the attraction and a parallel of appeal.

After many years of having period American pieces in my home, along with Arts & Crafts, I have slowly started an integration of some of these pieces. It all started with me almost driving by a yard sale last year before a stack of Arne Jacobsen/Fritz Hansen ant chairs caught my eye. I pulled over and before I knew it, I was loading them into my car. I was going the put them up at auction, but the more I walked by them every day in my home, the more I started to like them. I am currently looking for a table to match. Keep in mind that this is in a room right now with a Federal mahogany sideboard and a Hepplewhite card table. I like eclectic, but so far, I am not sure if it will work… something has to go in that particular room. For the first time that I can remember, the period pieces in that room are endangered species.

A Nelson/Miller Marshmallow sofa replaced a Sheraton sofa in my friends home.

I actually know a longtime antique dealer who had a home full of high-style mahogany period pieces and sold it all. It is like he pulled the drain plug and emptied all signs of the past. He has since completely refurnished in Mid-Century Modern. Since he has a lot of resources, the pieces he purchased were some of the better examples of what you can find. He did not warn me that he had made this change and I had not been in his home for about three years. As I walked in the door a few months ago, I was in sensory shock: abstract paintings where schoolgirl samplers and folk art portraits once hung; a Nelson/Miller Marshmallow sofa was where a Sheraton sofa once rested; a Charles and Ray Eames ESU 400 wall unit where a Welsh dresser full of pewter once sat. My mind nearly imploded, but I was in awe as well. I have never seen such a transition and I have to say, I loved it. I felt as though I could do a swap out like that myself. What I liked was the way it all worked together, the same way all the period pieces did previously.

I still love Shaker pieces and would be very happy to live with a house full of the simple functionality found in their work. For months, I have been trying to get the last living Shaker, Brother Arnold Hadd, on my podcast, but he has not gotten back to me. In my list of questions, you can bet that one of them will be: “Do you happen to own an iPhone?” and “if so, why haven’t you returned my calls?”

A traditional Shaker chair.

Four Arne Jacobsen/Fritz Hansen ant chairs.

I am not sure what the next trend or fad will be, or what will be looked at as a representation of our time. However, I do believe that we may be in the iPhone Period. Apple better strike while the iron is hot and open those iFurniture iFactories iSoon.

NOTE: Did you know that WorthPoint has an iPhone app? Check it out at the iTunes Store.

Martin Willis is Worthologist, auctioneer and director of decorative arts for James D. Julia Auctioneers for the Boston region. You can hear his podcasts at the at Antique and Auction Forum, featuring interviews with key players in the antiques and collectibles trade.


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One Response to “Are We Living in What may Become Known as the iPhone Period?”

  1. martin: I loved your article. it’s what I have been contemplating but couldnt put into words. I have just reitired from a forty year career In interior design. During all those years I loved, collected and studied all sorts of antiques. I still cannot fathom how they are going to fit into my grandchildren’s lives with their high tech everything! I am hoping someone will want my gorgeous stirling antique silver tray and coffee and tea set or my Lennox china with the cobalt and gold trim. maybe I should sell everything now so I don’t have to roll over in my grave every time one of them says “what did Grammy want this for?”. I am also beginning to be intrigued by mid century pieces but I really can’t see replacing my antiques with them!
    I am really enjoying getting to know Worthpoint and utilizing it frequently. In July I am attending Antiques Roadshow in Rapid City so I am using Worthpoint to help me decide what I should take. I have a wide variety of things but don’t really know what might be of any value.

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